Some 20 years ago, my friends Julie, Mandy, Alison and I scaled three flights up Sydney’s Kinselas nightclub to witness the platinum-bouffanted, leggy septuagenarian guitar goddesses, the Del Rubio Triplets in action.
Their insanely campy, goofy and sugar-coated rendition of Devo’s Whip It! was just one of the drawcards, along with a rolled gold repertoire of 1,000+ songs that included The Doors’ ‘Light My Fire’, The Bangles’ ‘Walk Like an Egyptian’ and The Pet Shop Boys’ ‘What Have I Done to Deserve This?’.
We bathed in the aura of their sublime sequinned splendour that evening while simultaneously getting rinsed on a heady cocktail of high-octane anticipation mixed with unbridled exuberance at the prospect of seeing the triplets up close and personal for the first (and as it turned out only) time.
You’d be hard pressed to find a more curious act than the Del Rubio Triplets, so it’s not exactly surprising that their unique brand of sass actually masked a veritable mass of contradictions.
Eadie, Elena and Mildred Boyd, born just 15 minutes apart on August 23 1921 in the Panama Canal zone, remained inseparable throughout their lives and never married. A friend called them ‘completely dysfunctional without each other’. In fact, according to Milly, they would tell would-be suitors “First comes God, second comes our sisters, third comes our music. You’ll have to wait in line!”. Evidently the queue never progressed much, if at all.
In their youth, the Del Rubio’s found a modicum of fame via Bob Hope and his 1950s nightclub circuit, and were renowned for their flashy low-cut, thigh-high costumes. Yet they eschewed a crack at real celebrity, the glittering lifestyle of the entertainment world and all its rich trappings for a quiet life away from the glare of stardom in a three bedroom mobile home in San Pedro that they shared for decades until Eadie’s death in 1996.
They also never made much of a fuss of the fact that their great uncle was American president Woodrow Wilson, and their low-key off-stage demeanour only hinted at their devout Catholicism.
Yet for all the conservatism, when they were rediscovered in the mid 1980s by Grammy Award winning songwriter Allee ‘Neutron Dance’ Willis, they opted for low-cut leotards, miniskirts, gaudy blue eye shadow and go-go boots in appearances on everything from Married … With Children, Pee Wee’s Playhouse, Night Court, The Golden Girls and a McDonald’s television commercial.
Their Sydney performance was riotous fun and our locust-like descent on the merchandising stand after the show was testament to it. So by the time Eadie, Elena and Mildred emerged from behind the curtains and we found ourselves chatting with them, we were all precariously close to synchronised spontaneous combustion.
But there was more high drama to come. In all the excitement I momentarily lost my balance and nearly crash-landed onto a guitar which had been left lying on the floor behind us. One of the finest moments of my life unfolded then and there; a night which might otherwise have unravelled in the most horrific way. Somehow I managed to execute a commando roll away from the instrument mid flight and I will go to my grave thanking the Flying Spaghetti Monster for it, given that those guitars were their very first; three identical Martin models presented to the girls by their beloved father in their childhood, which the Del Rubio’s continued to play throughout their 50+ year career until their very last performance.
I put the trip into the triplets that night. I’m just mightily relieved they didn’t have to rename their act, 3 gals, 2 guitars, 1 birthday, on my account.